Silence (short story)

Blackout

Lights Out #2

I wonder what we were expecting. You probably thought there would be a great explosion, a flash of light or a great void opening in the earth’s crust. If you were one of those who were waiting for choirs of angels and a divine voice, then I pity you even more. Screaming was something which I think we all were waiting for. I wanted everyone else to panic so that I could feel like I was being brave.

Now imagine silence. I would start by imagining nobody talking, but we were all holding our breath anyway. You probably just imagined you heard a car driving past. Well, you can forget that. Nobody was driving that night. We were all sitting indoors and waiting.

No human sounds, then. No voices, no vehicles and no machinery. All television shows, radio programmes and films had been cancelled. Every website had been taken down in anticipation. My father did not even breathe after the countdown reached zero, all of us held our breath. It was as though we were trying to see how deep into the cavernous silence we could fall before we went mad.

Of course, there were no birds singing, no animals calling and no wind whispering through the trees. We had cut down the trees, driven the birds from their homes and killed the animals. I do not remember how our cats, dogs and city foxes died, I have to admit. You might think that it was disease which killed them, and it probably was.

But in that moment it was not disease which was making my body shiver and the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. It was a tidal wave of silence which broke over me, my family, my home and my world. It drowned out even the smallest sound and I felt like I had been buried alive with dark mud seeping into my ears.

‘I can’t take this.’

I do not know who said those words. It might have been me but any sound was alien in that hushed vacuum. Whoever spoke those words, they drove me out of my mind. I ran to the window, pressed my palms against it and stared out at the ruined world through eyes soaked with tears.

There was nothing to see. You remember how dark it was on that first night. We all thought that we had experienced darkness before the countdown hit zero, but that was nothing. No, that was something. This was nothing.

In millions of years of human existence there had never been a time when a fire, a torch or a lamp was not burning somewhere. Now, remember that night when you first looked outside and saw that there were no lights shining in the building across the road. You looked a little further and saw that the whole street had been swallowed by darkness. Finally, you realised that the whole mosaic of yellow, white and orange which had beamed up out of the cities, towns and villages for millennia had been drowned in a sea of blackness.

Ages ago we dug lumps of black rock out of the ground and lit them on fire. Suddenly, the whole world was burning. We were powering billions of people’s lamps and laptops with black rock and oil. Of course it was going to run out eventually. They were right to hold it back from us at the end.

But I wish they had warned us about what it would be like. We all sat there with bottled water, matches, candles, blankets and tins of food. We were prepared to survive, but not to live. Life is about more than water, food and warmth. You have to know that there are other people out there. I was terrified of being stranded, alone in that desert of silent darkness.

I would give anything to be back in those few seconds after the countdown reached zero.

 

Click here to read the first short story in this series.

Or you can click here if you want to read about a novel I wrote.

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